From 4-3 to 4-6. If you're wondering why we've been critical of San Diego Chargers rookie head coach Mike McCoy, and his game management, look no further than three consecutive losses in three close, winnable games. Each time, the talent on the roster hasn't been enough to overcome the conservative decisions by the head coach, who seems content to kick FGs when his team desperately needs touchdowns.
First, let's start with the good.
Despite giving up three sacks as a unit, the shuffled offensive line — which included D.J. Fluker at left tackle, Jeromey Clary at right tackle and Rich Ohrnberger at center for much of the game — played admirably. Specifically, the tandem of Fluker and left guard Johnnie Troutman made the Chargers running game nearly dominant. The team finished with 5.9 yards per carry, led by Ryan Mathews' 127 yards on 19 carries.
Ladarius Green was finally "unleashed". While targeted less than Antonio Gates, Keenan Allen and Vincent Brown, Green finished tied for the team lead in receptions and his 81 receiving yards led the team and were 29 more than the next closest Charger (Gates). Increased production from Mathews and Green helped the offense to be more explosive, but they were consistently removed from the game in the red zone, where Ken Whisenhunt continues to struggle to get his team in the end zone.
The Miami Dolphins are now 5-2 in games where they either win the turnover battle or turn the ball over the same number of times as their opponent. In this one, each team turned the ball over once. A forced fumble by Eric Weddle was taken away when Corey Liuget hit Ryan Tannehill several seconds after the Dolphins QB let go of the ball. Miami went on to score a touchdown on that possession. For what it's worth, the Dolphins are 0-3 in games where they lose the turnover battle.
Keenan Allen had a mental mistake of his own, getting called for a 15 yard taunting penalty after making a few big catches in a row. Rivers didn't look his way again, and two drives later Allen was on the sideline getting his surgically-repaired knee worked on by the team's training staff. Between the mental lapses of Liuget and Allen, the Chargers cost themselves at least 10 points and possibly more.
There will be plenty written about the defense and Mike McCoy in the next few days, but here's my quick take:
John Pagano deserves credit. Despite having no pass rushers and no cornerbacks to speak of, the Chargers defense seems to consistently get stops in the second half when the team needs them most. There's yet to be a game that was over by halftime, which is surprising considering this is the worst (and least-talented) defense in the entire league.
That being said, I stand by what I said about Mike McCoy last week. He coaches out of fear, and puts himself in a position to not interfere with the outcome. He won't win games by creating more opportunities for his offense, which is one of the best offenses in the league. Instead, he'll lean on his defense, which is the worst in the league, to do that for him. It's a classic deflection style of coaching that allows him to put the blame on the players when it doesn't work.
Outside of the hires he's made, the preparation he puts in during the week, and the speeches he makes before the team heads out to the field, Mike McCoy is not helping this team. Nothing about the decisions he makes on the sidelines does anything to give his team the best chance to win. Most often, he's instead giving them the best chance to not lose by a lot of points.
What Mike McCoy and his coaching staff have shown us is that this team actually does have the offensive talent to win and be a playoff contender. A.J. Smith maybe wasn't as terrible as we thought, and Norv Turner may have been worse than we imagined. However, each week McCoy gives away games and shows us that he'd rather play to the media and avoid criticism than play to his team's strengths. The aggression needed from him to win games, the aggression that most offensive coordinators have, simply isn't there. Each of these three consecutive losses lie more on his head, and his game management, than they do with the players in the locker room.
Maybe he'll learn, but it's too late to salvage this season. From here on out, we're playing for draft picks. It's a terrible way to waste the best season of Philip Rivers' professional career.